Running backpacks (hydration vests / race vests) have become a trend among road runners and trail runners, offering the ability to run outside for hours without the need to stop for water or supplies. Instead, you can keep all of your essentials within arm’s reach and attached securely to your body, which prevents excessive bouncing or discomfort. Getting thirsty? No problem. There are easily accessible water bottles in the holsters on your sternum or a hose from a water bladder strapped to your back. Moreover, nutrition, lightweight jackets and gloves can fit into the rear compartments or pockets.
If you’re looking for a new running backpack, here’s a quick overview of the main things you should check.
First of all, you should decide for which type of running you’d like to get geared up. Short road runs, urban long runs or trail runs. There are product solutions for all kinds of running.
For short, urban runs (less than 40 minutes), you won’t need a running backpack. We advise to use a hydration belt or waist belt, these products are useful to carry your keys, smartphone, snacks or some water when running.
Discover our selection of products : Trail Mix, Hipster, Zipster
More experienced urban trail runners who go for longer runs should look for a 2 to 4 liter hydration vest, this should be more than enough to insure you stay hydrated. We advise a minimalistic running vest with a smaller rear compartment for essentials and soft flasks in front.
Discover our selection of products : Vapor Zach, Speed
Trail runners need to be self-sufficient, more so than road runners. It’s not just a question of keeping hydrated but you also need to be conscious of your own safety. You’ll need to take supplies with you that are appropriate for your surroundings and environment. Some races require a mandatory list of supplies and gear for safety reasons. Our Vapor Krar and Vapor Howe collection are developed in coöperation with known ultra runners Stephanie Howe and Rob Krar. They do feature the mandatory supplies like the emergency whistle. Moreover, the whole collection is very lightweight and has an apparel-like fit with a breathable structure
Discover our selection of products : Krar, Howe
A running backpack like the TRAIL MIX is more versatile as it can be used for several sports. It’s a good choice if you are just starting trail running or hiking.
Discover our selection of products: Trail Mix
Running backpacks are specifically designed for running. You wear them high up on your back and they fit snugly to limit movement while running. You should look for a vest that fits your shape perfectly. Running hydration vests should fit snug so they don’t shift around while you run. Some of our NATHAN vests feature an ADAPTIVE FIT SYSTEM. This system provides a tailored, body mapped fit for all body types.
Women-specific running vests
Many women benefit from selecting a women-specific vest. Women’s hydration packs for running tend to have more room in the bust and narrower shoulders while also being cut shorter overall.
Discover our selection of products : Howe, Mag
The liquid capacity or the amount of water (or other hydration beverage) a running pack can carry, is the main differentiating factor between vests. When referring to hydration capacity, we are specifically talking about the total amount of liquid a vest can hold using its included carrying containers. Often, running packs will also be able to fit additional flasks, bottles, or bladders (reservoirs) that can be purchased separately.
We advise to choose a running backpack depending on the distance you will be running and the amount of equipment you will need to carry. Make sure the running vest has enough space (measured in liters) to carry things like water, food and extra clothing.
1 – 2 hours
2 – 3 hours
3 – 6 hours
2 – 6 liters
4 – 12 liters
If your runs vary in duration dramatically, it might seem like you need to own more than one running vest.
Most vests come ready to carry water in one of two ways: water bottles that stow on the front of the vest or a hydration bladder that fits into a sleeve in back. Bottles can be easier and faster to refill, but a bladder can be simpler to sip from while on the go and it can typically hold more water.
For longer runs that require more water, a bladder (reservoir) will generally give you more liquid capacity. For really long runs, you might want to use a bladder together with bottles (most of our vests allow you to carry water both ways). How much liquid you need to carry depends mostly on the duration of your run, the outside temperature and if you’ll be able to refill along the way. In general, you’re going to need to carry enough water to be able to drink five to 250 ml (a few good long drinks) every 15 – 20 minutes.
Running hydration vests come with a variety of different features that can make them more convenient and comfortable. Here are some features to keep an eye out for while you’re choosing a running hydration vest:
Pockets: Most vests include a variety of pockets to hold frequently used items, like gels, your phone and an extra layer. Take a look at the positioning of the pockets and make sure they’re easy to reach; ideally you don’t have to stop moving to grab a jacket or reach an energy gel. Also, consider the pocket closures. Nathan uses zippers on some pockets to ensure that important items don’t fly out when you stumble on the trail.
Reflectivity: All Nathan vests include reflectivity to help you be seen during nighttime runs, whether that’s by oncoming traffic or fellow runners wearing headlamps.
Breathability: Nathan running backpacks are built with a good amount of breathability. Look closely at the back panel and the straps that wrap around the front for mesh materials that improve breathability.
Emergency whistle: Some vests include a whistle on a sternum strap. This can be a handy emergency item to have in case you need to alert someone to your location. This emergency whistle is required for taking part in trail running events.
Trekking pole keepers: If you like to use trekking poles while you’re out on the trails, you might want to use a vest that has a dedicated spot for securing them.